Applying tanning tax as helpful as no SPF

A 10 percent tax won’t deter young minds from increasing their chances of getting skin cancer.

A 10 percent tax won’t deter young minds from increasing their chances of getting skin cancer.

Every month, Laura Clark reads articles in Cosmopolitan magazine about “the dangers of tanning,” but the freshman civil engineering major, who does not tan, said “people either just don’t care or are in denial [about] how badly they are damaging their health.”Picture 8

Since skin cancer is most commonly associated with indoor tanning, the United States Senate is taking action, with the proposal of a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services to help compensate for health insurance funds, as well as discourage Americans from using tanning beds.

But with approximately 30 million Americans fake baking annually – 2.3 million of whom are teens, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association – the legislation will only add a stigma to the indulgence. Just like smokers who have dealt with fluctuating cigarette taxation, tanners will stay addicted.

Like Shanna Phillips, a sophomore secondary education and English major who tans several times a month, teens and young adults need more than magazines, talk shows and newspapers to persuade them to stop tanning. Even Phillips said tanning “is horrible for your skin and linked to cancer.”

Dr. Carolyn J. Heckman, an assistant professor and associate member of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program for Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, said she believes a lot of information provided to Americans about indoor tanning is “often sensationalized and not necessarily scientifically-based.”

“I would like to see indoor tanning prohibited among individuals under 18 without a medical prescription,” Heckman said. “Unfortunately, people often do unhealthy things despite being aware that they are unhealthy.”

This was the case for Steve Noval, a senior communications major. Noval formerly worked at Hollywood Tans and used its services. He was later diagnosed with skin cancer, which has since been removed.

“I had heard rumors about skin cancer due to tanning but ignored it,” Noval said. “In the typical teenage mentality, I just assumed it could never happen to me. I left my job because I couldn’t morally tell people tanning was OK.”

After speaking to Noval, I could not help but to be influenced to quit tanning, or at least try. And then I realized a personal story, with someone at my own school, was more persuasive than a 10 percent tax.

Personal testimonies are what teenagers really need because, like Noval, most people seem to think the consequences won’t become their reality. The story of a real-life skin cancer survivor is scarier – and more effective – than a few more dollars teens need to annoy their parents for.

Cary Carr can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. This is very insightful commentary. At SunAWARE we too believe education is the best and most effective method of deterring people from using tanning beds. That said, even the proposal of a tanning bed tax has promoted discussion about the dangers of tanning. And, although Congress almost certainly sees the tax primarily as a revenue generating measure, it could be a first step (although through the back door) toward a sustained and on-going national public awareness campaign about the dangers of UVR exposure.
    But you’re absolutely right about the impact of testimonials.

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